It’s been a hard week for many of us. There is a lot of uncertainty out there, especially when it comes to marginalized folks and their safety and wellbeing in our country. Many of us are hard at work doing what we can, and don’t fret — we hear you all! We’ll share ideas for becoming more engaged and active in our next column. This week, however, we wanted to give attention to those feminist moments and memories that we hold close to our hearts and share them with you in hopes that they bring some hope. We asked our favorite feminists:
What is one of your favorite feminist memories?
Celeste Lindell: “My mother had the Helen Reddy album that included the song, ‘I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.’ I’ve just checked to see when it was released: 1971, which meant I was a tiny tot at the time. But I loved that song and listened to it over and over. The women in my family had been working women for generations, so my mother and grandmother had plenty of stories to share to give me context about that song in my formative years. It’s one little part of what made me the feminist I am today.
Runner-up feminism story: My mother and I used to make preserves using a brand of pectin called MCP, which she always jokingly referred to as ‘Male Chauvinist Pig pectin.'”
Porscha Williams: “When I was 13 I wanted to audition for the performing arts high school in my city but my dad forbade it, basically because it would have been inconvenient for him to drive me. One day my mom asked how my application was going and I reacted with confusion; she knew that my dad told me not to bother applying. I cried about not being able to go to this school and she said ‘Who said you can’t go? If you wanna go, and you can find a way to go, and it’d be good for you to go, then you go. Don’t ever let anybody, even your daddy, tell you what you can’t do, especially if you damn well know you can.’ I still tremble with joy when I remember that. [And I auditioned, got in, went, and had some of the best experiences of my life there, if you’re wondering.]”
Sarah Buttenwieser: “I am having such a hard time with the question: it feels like we’re encouraging nostalgia for feminism as if it’s dead. We have just begun. Again.”
Lisa Schamess: “I was too young to stand. i woke happily in the night to see a great full moon or streetlamp outside our window. i was so young it was simply light. I calmly looked at this beautiful moon and calmly thought (with no words of course), “I want my mommy to be here.”
So I pulled myself up by my crib rails and I immediately began to scream and sob as if my life depended on it, which it did. I was completely calm and secure in the knowledge my mother would come. The door of my room opened and she came in. She was so beautiful and sleepy, rubbing her eyes and her nightgown falling in sweet folds around her body. She lifted me up and that is all I remember. It is so serene and it set me up for life. I aspire to be such a person. Such a mensch.”
Diana-Ashley Krach: “One of my favorite feminist memories was when I attended my first Lilith Fair. To see so many women building each other up professionally and personally, was magical. The energy was electric, and the music was incredible.”
Seranine Elliot: “The moment I became a feminist was the moment I realized that everything women had been telling me my whole life about their lived experiences as women was true. I realized that when I was groped on the street in broad daylight by a stranger only a few months after realizing I was female, and coming out as transgender. I understood, though I could not articulate at the time, that the single thing that was different in my life after that assault was not that it had happened, but that I had now had the direct lived experience of the Other — in this case, women. We think, “I know better.” But we only think that because of everything else we know. We necessarily cannot include or account for what we do not know.
So my proudest feminist moment was not the moment I realized that all of these struggles are the same, and that the solution is not to seek to destroy, but only to listen. My proudest feminist moment was when I understood deeply that that is only my experience; as is true of everyone and everything else.”
Alex Blank Millard: “In 2004 a friend and I went to the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. We were both college students, and got on a 4:30am bus from Pittsburgh. In D.C. we met up with her mother and sister and My mother, father and 13 year old brother. Together we marched side by side with thousands of others to proclaim the need for reproductive rights and health for all! It was a beautiful day to fight for justice with our families by our sides.”
Awanthi Vardaraj: “I went to a really strict all-girls school in a small town in the south of India. Although the teachers were all women, there was very little conversation to be had with any adult in charge about our own bodies. Biology classes addressed zoology and botany, but not our own bodies, and definitely not our sexualities. It was also considered very rude to discuss perfectly normal things like getting your period or being indisposed as a result of having it. It was very confusing because I was all about embracing my body, but it wasn’t being echoed back at me. Anyway, I got into trouble one day because one of my classmates got her period, but didn’t have a pad on her. She was terrified she was going to bleed through her clothes (we were in white gym skorts that day, to make things worse) so I broke into the matron’s room (she was at lunch) to get pads for her. I waited in the matron’s room to tell her what I’d done, but instead of congratulating me for averting a catastrophe, she took me to the headmistress, who proceeded to call my grandfather in to complain about me, and threaten me with expulsion. My grandfather was stoic through it all, even when the headmistress told him that I was ‘cocky and disobedient’.
I was mortified (I was a teenager) and upset, but my grandfather, who was one of the earliest feminist influences in my life, told me not to be. He told me to keep being cocky and disobedient, and he told me to keep sticking up for girls, and keep putting my neck on the line. I have never wavered from that path.”
Mayim Bialik: “Disclaimer #1: not all feminists are 100% comfortable with everything we do to assert our feminism…Disclaimer #2: sometimes even feminists like approval from men.
My last boyfriend really liked my fuzzy legs; I am so shy about it, and I’d never shave just because some guy didn’t like them, but it’s not everyone’s thing. He wasn’t just fine about them, he actually liked them which was really special. It felt validating.”
Do YOU have a question for our cabal of fierce feminists? Email it to Avital Norman Nathman at TheMamafesto@gmail.com.